Future pharmacists dedicate themselves to serving patients

White Coat Ceremony 2018

“I promise to devote myself to a lifetime of service to others through the profession of pharmacy.” With those words, the 96 students of the UCSF School of Pharmacy’s newest doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) class took the Oath of a Pharmacist and inherited the responsibilities of their profession.

During the White Coat Ceremony, held Friday, September 7, 2018, on the UCSF Parnassus campus, members of the Class of 2021T donned white coats (a symbol of the health professions), turned to face an audience of family and friends, peers and mentors, and swore to uphold the standards of their profession.

The oath serves as an ethical compass for pharmacists over the course of their careers, helping them navigate professional quandaries as patient care providers and critical thinkers.

“You come from diverse backgrounds and life experiences, all of which have resulted in a passion for serving others,” School of Pharmacy Dean B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD, reminded the students. “And while science will underpin each day of your pharmacy education and careers, it's this desire to serve others that will ensure your success as tomorrow’s outstanding clinicians, scientists, academicians, and world leaders.”

A guide for pharmacy’s toughest problems

For this cohort of future pharmacists, the oath has already been an important part of their instruction. Lisa Kroon, PharmD, chair of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, who led the students through the oath, also taught a course last month on what the oath means for them as professionals.

two people hug.

PharmD student embraces the pharmacist who coated her moments prior.

Developed by the American Pharmacists Association over 20 years ago, “the Oath of a Pharmacist draws inspiration from the Oath of Maimonides,” Kroon told the students. “The Oath of Maimonides, named after the 12th century Jewish physician, philosopher, and teacher, established some of the earliest values for clinicians, including caring for patients and dedication to a lifetime of learning. The Oath of a Pharmacist also emphasizes respect for patient privacy, and the need for pharmacists to uphold the highest standards of ethics for both themselves and their colleagues.”

In small groups during Kroon’s course, students wrestled with some of the more vexing dilemmas that pharmacists might expect to encounter during their careers. One question had students balance parental rights with a 16-year-old patient’s privacy. Another question dealt with how to handle being overheard complaining about a superior. The students looked to the oath for guidance but ultimately relied on their own critical thinking to determine the best courses of action, just as they will do in their careers.

Becoming professionals

Marilyn Stebbins, PharmD ’88, and faculty member in the School’s Department of Clinical Pharmacy, spoke during the ceremony about the obligations these future pharmacists will have to their patients—to not only ensure that prescriptions are appropriate, safe, and effective, but to also provide patients with guidance, reassurance, and compassion.

“It is our responsibility to give patients the opportunities for success,” said Stebbins. “But that means we actually have to talk to patients, and more importantly, we must listen to patients. We must be their advocates in this complicated and often disjointed health care system.”

Chen at podium in white coat.

PharmD student Yee-Ann Chen, Class of 2019, addresses the audience at the White Coat Ceremony.

PharmD student speaker Yee-Ann Chen, Class of 2019, then exhorted her new colleagues to seize their opportunities here at UCSF to become tomorrow’s pharmacy leaders.

“Very soon your family members will start calling you for medication advice. After you receive your white coat, people will see you as a professional,” said Chen. “With this professionalism comes responsibility—as a student, as a clinician, and as a scientist. You must fight for your education no matter the circumstances, and ask questions in your downtime. You must listen to your patients. And you must not neglect to take care of yourselves.”

During the actual coating, Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, MPH, vice dean of the School, named each future pharmacist in sets of ten as they lined up in front of their coaters, a group of current faculty members, alumni, and other affiliated leaders in pharmacy, who helped them put one arm, then the next, through each white sleeve.

The Oath of a Pharmacist

I promise to devote myself to a lifetime of service to others through the profession of pharmacy. In fulfilling this vow:

I will consider the welfare of humanity and relief of suffering my primary concerns.

I will apply my knowledge, experience, and skills to the best of my ability to assure optimal outcomes for my patients.

I will respect and protect all personal and health information entrusted to me.

I will accept the lifelong obligation to improve my professional knowledge and competence.

I will hold myself and my colleagues to the highest principles of our profession’s moral, ethical and legal conduct.

I will embrace and advocate changes that improve patient care.

I will utilize my knowledge, skills, experiences, and values to prepare the next generation of pharmacists.

I take these vows voluntarily with the full realization of the responsibility with which I am entrusted by the public.

7 students in white coats arm in arm.

PharmD students pose for a photo after the White Coat Ceremony.

student holding bouquet surrounded by family members, all smiling.

A PharmD student poses with her family after the White Coat Ceremony.

A cellphone captures a smiling student holding a bouquet.

A PharmD student has her photo taken by a family member at the White Coat Ceremony.

student holding bouquet with family member, all smiles.

A PharmD student smiles for a photo after the White Coat Ceremony.

small group near UCSF banner.

B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD, dean (right), with alumnus Caroline Burke, PharmD '90, MS (center), and her husband (left), after the White Coat Ceremony.

small group in crowded room.

Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, MPH (left), with a PharmD student (right) and the student’s proud parent (center) after the White Coat Ceremony.


School of Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.